Europe Will Get Its Vladimir
As much as he enjoyed hosting the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russia’s president was surely pleased last Sunday to see them end. In the days since, unencumbered by the need to maintain a genteel and charming persona, the real Vladimir Putin has returned and significantly upped the ante in Ukraine.
You probably heard that on Wednesday he ordered snap military exercises to test the “combat readiness” of Russia’s armed forces in its Central and Western military districts. But did you notice the scale of the war games? The drills, which have already begun, involve 150,000 troops, 880 tanks, 120 helicopters, 90 aircraft and 1,200 pieces of military hardware. Putin has also put Russian fighter planes on war footing, repositioned his navy in Black Sea, and effectively taken control of Crimea’s parliament and airport. He has also halted the flow of Russian oil to Ukraine’s Odessa refinery and threatened to refuse food imports from Ukraine.
More than a few European politicians, closet autocrats, are surely watching Putin’s conduct with envy. It would take Europe months, even years, to accomplish what Putin just achieved in four or five days.
Russia’s behavior this week has been calculated, confident and robust. The Kremlin’s decisions have been carried through swiftly, with precision and with great success. Why? Fundamentally, it’s because Russia’s government is united in its strategy and has singleness of focus and purpose. When it comes to Ukraine, like almost everything else in Russia, what Vladimir Putin says goes.
Compare that to Europe’s approach to Ukraine (among other issues). Where Russia has Vladimir Putin, Europe has Catherine Ashton … and José Manuel Barosso … and Angela Merkel … and François Hollande … and Radoslaw Sikorski … and Laurent Fabius … and Frank Walter Steinmeier … and …
Putin responds to events in Ukraine by activating 150,000 soldiers and firing up 880 tanks; Europe responds to Putin by politely requesting that the Kremlin show restraint. Putin takes over Crimea’s parliament and airport; Europe orders its foreign ministers to gather for meetings. As far as Europe is concerned, Putin’s behavior this week has exposed Europe as a feeble, disunited lightweight incapable of mustering the focus and force necessary to compete with Russia.
The way it looks now, Europe doesn’t stand a chance versus Vladimir Putin.
So why does the Trumpet persist in forecasting Europe’s imminent integration into the world’s most powerful and frightening superpower? Indeed, ever since the crisis in Ukraine began, Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry and staff have warned over and over that Russia’s belligerent behavior is going to compel Europe to unite and result in the dramatic appearance of a Vladimir Putin-type leader in Europe. How can we gainsay what appears to be such an obvious exposure of Europe’s disarray and disunity? How can we be so resolute in our forecast of European unity? Can these apparently divergent views be reconciled?
The answers, as always, can be found in biblical prophecy.
Daniel 2 contains the seminal prophecy explaining world history. In this chapter, the young Jewish prophet recounts a dream that the Chaldean King Nebuchadnezzar had in the late sixth century b.c. In his dream, Nebuchadnezzar saw a towering statue comprised of four distinct parts: a head of gold; breast and arms of silver; a belly of brass; and legs of iron. In verses 31-35, God reveals that these successive materials represent four successive world-ruling empires. The head of gold represented the Babylonian/Chaldean Empire; the chest of silver represented the Medo-Persian Empire; the belly of bronze represented Alexander the Great’s Greek Empire of the fourth century. The two legs of iron picture the Roman Empire that began in 31 b.c., which had two capitals—one in Rome, the other in Constantinople.
The Daniel 2 image reveals the chronological succession of world powers, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire, and concluding with the last resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire represented by the feet of the image. Now notice in verses 43-44 the description of the feet of this image, which symbolize the final resurrection of the Holy Roman Empire:
And whereas thou sawest the feet and toes, part of potters’ clay,and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron …. And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. And whereas thou sawest iron mixed with miry clay … they shall not cleave one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay.
WilliamShakespeare couldn’t have come up with a more apt description of contemporary Europe!
Written 2,500 years ago, this spectacularly detailed portrayal of the final manifestation of the Roman Empire actually recognizes the differences—politically, economically and culturally—between the nations that form this end-time European superpower. Can anyone disagree that modern Europe is indeed a continent of iron and clay? Some nations, like Germany, are strong and robust. Others are weak and fragile. The European Union is a mixture of iron and clay—making it “partly strong” and “partly broken.” This prophecy says that, as a result of these differences, Europe’s end-time unification would occur haltingly, gradually, in fits and spurts, with inconvenience and some pain.
Is there a better way to describe Europe today, and its response to events in Ukraine?
Based on this prophecy, the Trumpet forecasts the emergence of this short-lived and crumbly—yet overwhelmingly powerful, with the “strength of iron”—European superstate.
Notice what the late Herbert W. Armstrong wrote in 1956 about this final resurrection of the Roman Empire: “It will possess greater military might by far than the Rome of old, but it will also inherit fatal weaknesses. Prophecy symbolizes this admixture of never-equaled military might and unprecedented weakness with the apt phrase, ‘iron mixed with miry clay.’ The European nations will unite militarily—but they are suspicious and envious of each other—they hate one another.”
Mr. Armstrong wasn’t ignorant of the fundamental differences between many of Europe’s countries, cultures and peoples. He understood and consistently took into account geopolitics and international relations, which is partly why he concluded that the European states that comprised the last resurrection of the Roman Empire would be “suspicious and envious of each other.” In this sense, Mr. Armstrong, decades ago, anticipated and warned of the current tumult besieging Europe.
Neither Mr. Armstrong nor Gerald Flurry and the Trumpet have ever taught that Europe would coalesce into a long-term and stable power. Rather, we have prophesied consistently that while Europe will unite, its bonds will be weak and short-lived, like the bond between clay and iron. “[T]he last, final, brief resurrection of the ‘Holy Roman Empire’ by 10 European groups or nations” is forming, Mr. Armstrong wrote. “[A]nd they shall last but a very short space, possibly no more than two to three and a half years” (Plain Truth, May 1979).
This is truly inspiring when you really think on it. This prophecy was written 2,500 years ago, yet it describes present-day Europe perfectly. It reconciles the seemingly divergent viewpoints about Europe espoused today by the Trumpet and other analysts. When you understand this prophecy, all the disarray and disunity in Europe—made evident by events in Ukraine and the ongoing financial crises, among other things—do not undermine what the Trumpet prophesies about European unification. They actually reveal the profound accuracy of our forecast.
It’s breathtaking, really. God didn’t just prophesy Europe’s end-time integration into a superpower: He said this European superpower, though possessing the strength of iron, would also be inherently fractious and unstable. We need to keep this prophecy in mind as we watch Vladimir Putin, events in Ukraine, and events in Europe. Now, Europe appears to lack the unity and strength to present any sort of united front against Russia. While Europe’s leaders gather for endless meetings in which they bicker over financial-aid packages and the language of press releases, Putin dispatches military helicopters to drop Russian forces in Crimea. Expect this to change.
Bible prophecy says that Europe will soon get its Vladimir Putin, and that under his leadership—despite Europe’s many political and cultural rifts and disagreements—a German-led European superpower will emerge.